Schools working hard to bring an end to bullying

Over 600 schools from across Northern Ireland took part in last year’s Anti-Bullying Week.

This year schools and youth clubs are also being encouraged to take part in the “Everybody is Somebody” creative competition, the results of which will be showcased during the week long programme of events in November. (19 to 23).

Anti-Bullying Week is co-ordinated by the Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum (NIABF) and is supported by Translink. NIABF is an interagency group hosted by the National Children’s Bureau (NCB) NI and funded by the Department of Education.

Anti-Bullying Week 2012 will focus on bullying based on difference. This could include homophobic, disablist, sectarian or racist bullying, or indeed any way that a young person may experience bullying because they are seen as being different from their peers.

Lee Kane, NIABF’s Regional Anti-Bullying Co-ordinator, urges all teachers and youth leaders to take the opportunity that Anti-Bullying Week presents to talk to young people about respecting difference:

“Bullying can cause a great deal of distress and it is important that all young people are aware of the implications of such behaviour. By actively reinforcing anti-bullying messages at every opportunity this creates an environment where it is more difficult for bullying to occur unchallenged.

“Children and young people sometimes experience bullying because someone thinks they’re different, It might be motivated by their gender, their real or perceived sexual orientation, if they have a disability, the colour of their skin, where they come from, their religion, what they look like, if they’re particularly good at sport, or not, or a whole range of different things.

“We’re asking young people to think about how someone may be bullied because of others thinking they’re different, and what they can do to stop it.”

Lee adds: “In order to actively take part in Anti-Bullying Week 2012, we are urging schools to register online for free at www.endbullying.org.uk Once registered, schools will receive a free specially created anti-bullying resource pack, which includes assembly plans, lesson activities and themed posters. Guidance will also be offered on preventative initiatives which can be used as part of an overall anti-bullying strategy.

“We are also encouraging everyone to get involved and submit entries for this year’s creative competition. Themed on ‘Everybody is Somebody’, there are two categories - art and creative writing. Within the art category, young people can submit drawings, paintings, sculptures or photographs, while in the creative writing category entries could take the form of poetry, short stories, diaries, songs and drama scripts. It’s up to young people what they write about and how they do it.”

This year’s Anti-Bullying Week is once again supported by Translink. Anti-bullying messages will be disseminated to the public through poster displays at train and bus stations across NI. Welcoming this year’s Anti-Bullying Week, Translink’s Ursula Kelleher, said:

“Our buses and trains are used by a wide variety of people and we believe that embracing diversity is a very important life skill that can really enrich pupils’ experiences at school. By respecting each other’s differences and valuing alternative perspectives, outlooks and even appearances we are building a more inclusive, friendly and happy school environment. We are also ensuring that young people are better equipped to accept diversity when they leave school and enter high education and the workplace.”

St Ita’s Primary School in Belfast is just one of the many schools that have already signed up for Anti-Bullying Week 2012. Principal, Joanne Browne, explains why it’s an important week in the school calendar:

“We have been involved in the anti-bullying campaign since our school opened in September 2005. The anti-bullying campaign has a very meaningful focus each year which we can all relate to and which helps us focus on our anti-bullying policy. It provides a time in the year when all stakeholders examine their role in stamping out bullying.

“The resources available are wonderful and very accessible to all age groups. Lots of discussion at home and at school, art work, role play and school based competitions ensure that children are aware of our anti- bullying procedures and their right to a safe and happy learning environment.”